Supreme Court rebukes judge overseeing Trump's Washington, D.C. criminal case

 July 2, 2024

The Supreme Court made headlines this week when it ruled that former presidents enjoy a significant degree of legal immunity for official acts they took while in office.

However, less attention was paid to how the justices also issued a rebuke to the judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's criminal case in Washington, D.C.

Judge failed to hold hearing on immunity question

That fact was pointed out on Monday by Real Clear Investigations columnist Julie Kelly on Monday in a series of posts made to the social media platform X.

"As I repeatedly noted, Judge Chutkan didn't bother to hold a hearing about immunity to hash out which elements of the J6 indictment related to presidential v personal/unofficial conduct," Kelly wrote.

An Obama appointee, Chutkan is presiding over the case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith over Trump's actions following the 2020 election.

"She just issued her landmark opinion without additional input. I've also noted the appellate panel's similar rush to judgment," the columnist remarked.

Court took issue with judge's "sloppy, hasty handling of immunity question"

"SCOTUS did not appreciate how such an unprecedented matter was handled by lower courts," Kelly wrote before referencing a quote from Chief Justice John Roberts in his majority opinion. 

"Despite the unprecedented nature of this case, and the very significant constitutional questions that it raises, the lower courts rendered their decisions on a highly expedited basis," Roberts remarked.

Kelly observed that Roberts took "another shot at Chutkan's sloppy, hasty handling of immunity question" and directed her "to determine if Trump's comms with state election officials and the alternative electoral certificates effort falls under executive authority."

Roberts concluded by instructing the district court "to determine in the first instance--with the benefit of briefing we lack--whether Trump's conduct in this area qualifies as official or unofficial."

Degree of immunity depends on nature of actions taken

As CBS News explained, the majority opinion determined that "with respect to the President's exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute," the chief justice declared."

Roberts then went on to address other official acts that are outside of a president's "exclusive authority" as well as "unofficial acts."

Actions which are outside the president's exclusive authority but still official in nature enjoy "presumptive" immunity" whereas those acts that are "unofficial" have no immunity from prosecution.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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